Total Annihilation Modification Excitation!
April 7, 2008 8:55 PM   Subscribe

Total Annihilation, released over ten years ago by the now defunct Cavedog Entertainment, was one of the most popular RTS games of its day. And it is still being played today, partly due to the mod community who have been working on keeping it alive through the release of patches, units and maps, a list of which you'll find inside.

Total Annihilation: Twilight is the most balanced of all the TA mods.
TABA includes unique features such as upgrading and new balance changes.
FileUniverse contains over 3000 mods, races, maps, utilities and tutorials for TA and TA:Kingdoms.
UnitUniverse has an archive of over 5,000 downloadable first and third party units.
TA-Zone bills itself as the Ultimate TA Resource site, with a TA 1v1 Ladder, TA Replays and forums.
D-Gun provides more links to information and files for playing Total Annihilation online.
Switeck's Junkdrawer has many useful TA files, such as the TA Bugfix and AI Guide.
Epic Class Productions has a large collection of gigantic 63x63-screen "Epic Maps" by James Beatty.
posted by Effigy2000 (30 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man, fuck balance. I want to charge into the Core base with nothing but my Commander and his D-gun. My favorite was when two Commanders go head-to-head: one fires off his D-gun and the ensuing explosion kills them both. Good times.
posted by Avenger at 9:17 PM on April 7, 2008

Oh man, fuck balance.

I always imagined that was one of the guiding premises of the game.
posted by blacklite at 9:42 PM on April 7, 2008

oh man, Total Annihilation was so amazing. I remember having 3 different unit packs installed at the same time, and the game ending up too unstable to run. and I have to agree with Avenger and blacklite that balance was definitely the least important design consideration in this game, making it a sort of anti-starcraft.

also, if you're looking for an updated, extended, and open source implementation of Total Annihilation, you should check out TA: Spring.
posted by grandsham at 10:01 PM on April 7, 2008

I lurve TA. Brawlers FTW. I wish I could get Spring to run easily, it's just too damn complicated to install and get running.

Another game killing first move is to send an air transport ship to go pick up the other team's commander and self destruct the air transport.
posted by bigmusic at 10:22 PM on April 7, 2008

I still have the TA soundtrack on my Zune.
posted by Foosnark at 10:22 PM on April 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I still have the TA soundtrack on my Zune.

That combination of nouns seems so terrifyingly unlikely that I'm worried the fabric of the universe may have ripped.
posted by generichuman at 11:21 PM on April 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

What a great game that was. I haven't played it in a while, but maybe I'll fire it back up again this weekend. (I wonder how hard it is to get going on Mac OS X ... I think it was a Classic game.)

The soundtrack was really spectacular, or at least I thought it was, measured by the standard of game music at the time. The 'track was composed for the game, and was an actual recording of a performance by a symphony, rather than a synthetic version. The recording left a little to be desired, but I was impressed that they'd gone to that much trouble in the first place.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:28 PM on April 7, 2008

I've had a lot of good times with that game. It was the first game that I played over a LAN, and to this day, probably the one I've played the most.

Supreme Commander, a relatively new game, is sort of like TA, only with fancier graphics and less customizable features.
posted by flippant at 12:07 AM on April 8, 2008

Total Annihilation was (I believe) the first game to offer new units for free download over the web after the game hit store shelves. I'd imagine this helped kick-start the player community (not to mention the mod scene). Players would check the developer's website periodically to see if any new units were available. Great for marketing.

It was also one of the first games I remember that really scaled up with your hardware. Five years after release, new PCs could handle a lot more units in the game at once. This leant the game a re-playability that has rarely been matched. (Huge unit counts were my favorite part of the game. Yes, I am a huge nerd.)

I've played a fair amount of Supreme Commander, and I recommend it to TA fans. Like its predecessor, it will use every ounce of your hardware's capabilities. I expect it'll be taxing sound cards, CPUs, and system memory bandwidth on new PCs for years to come. (Although it is limited to three processor cores, at least in SupCom's original release.)

Best not to mention TA:Kingdoms.
posted by sdodd at 12:35 AM on April 8, 2008

I used to love setting up massive single player games, building up huge queues and then going away for a few hours and coming back and seeing how things were going.

I look forward to playing supreme commander when i have the hardware for it.
posted by srboisvert at 1:10 AM on April 8, 2008

I tried Supreme Commander, and it started off great, with a respectable framerate. Then after the first few "unfoldings" of map terrain and the corresponding increase in population (worsened by my tendency to build a far larger assault force than strictly necessary), it just became unplayable.

To be fair, the same situation occurred when I first got Total Annihilation and tried to play it on something like a pentium 233. Like srboisvert, it will be one of the first trials I test my next machine with. Although, I suspect it will be the generation after that, that will allow SC's wing to unfold completely.
posted by Tzarius at 2:49 AM on April 8, 2008

grandsham has it right. All of you folks planning on installing the Original TA (between hard and impossible on modern stuff) would better redirect your efforts to the Spring Project.

Imagine if you take OTA, and you let cavedog and users release years worth of extra content, such as units and maps. Let some years pass to balance test those additions. Take the most useful and interesting ones into packs. Those packs become mods. The mods pass on to different maintainers over time. Some folks develop a 3D engine, just for kicks. It catches on. Massive battles, advanced graphical effects, terrain deformation, scripting. Take the best content, balance it for fun gameplay, and plug it on this engine. Call it "Balanced Annihilation".

I have been playing games for over 20 years and this is The best RTS so far.

The "how" is very interesting to me. The work of so many experts (coders, artists, players) created a level of quality after all these years that is very hard to overcome. New games just don't compare favorably. Even the over-hyped Supreme Commander, designed by the very designer of OTA, plus 10 years of experience, was an embarrassingly poor contest.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 3:14 AM on April 8, 2008

Awesome. I remember a LAN party where we decided to do a four player versus game on the biggest maps possible. About 6 hours later, I think one of us was out of the game. Around that time we decided to bring our commanders into the middle and duke it out like men. Epic stuff.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:39 AM on April 8, 2008

Ah, TA. It's still one of my favorite games. I still fire it up and play it every few years, I think that I had it running about a year and a half ago. When I buy my next computer, I'm going to spec it out based on it's ability to run Supreme Commander which I'm dying to try.
posted by octothorpe at 4:00 AM on April 8, 2008

I'm surprised that so far no one has mentioned that TA and SupCom were designed by the same guy, Chris Taylor. I don't play TA anymore in favor of Spring, thanks in large part to the 3D acceleration, though it does lack Jeremy Soule's incredible soundtrack. One new Spring mod I'm dying to try out is Spring: 1944.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:50 AM on April 8, 2008

Oops, guess I didn't read CautionToTheWind's post closely enough.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:51 AM on April 8, 2008

I remember falling in love with TA when I was playing a small multiplayer map with the Core Contingency expansion and focusing mostly on defense. After it cost me one game, I was paranoid about not being energy starved, and was building what would normally be way too much generating capacity. I had found a spot of high ground that was easily defendable, and I was planning on building in secret a Big Bertha artillery cannon, which could shell any incoming ground attact, and probably even my opponent's base.

Then I saw the Vulcan cannon. What was this? It looked like a 4 barrel Big Bertha artillery minigun. Man, it took forever to build, and it seems like only dumb luck prevented it's discovery. I was well on the way to destruction by the time it was completed. My opponent had complete air superiority and was launching a ground attack on my base. I pulled my Commander and the handfull of units capable of air defense away to protect the Vulcan, and left my base undefended save for some woefully underpowered static defenses. Fortunately, my opponent wasn't wise enough to target my power generators, all in a row in a far corner of the map. When the vulcan was completed, I soon found out that it's fire rate was more or less entirely dependent on the energy available. It chewed through power like nothing else, but by this point, my opponent had destroyed basically everything else drawing power, but none of the generators. It fired hundreds of rounds a minute, and because it was built in the center of a small map, nowhere was safe from it. It would even shoot down aircraft. The game was over in minutes, and I won it without a single mobile offensive unit save my commander and a handfull of low tech units I didn't even use.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:26 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

I loves me some TA. I love setting up nice little autonomous borders for my pleasantly geometric cities. Radar and overlapping artillery. Gunboat patrols. Autonomous repair craft. Scrap reclamation. Airships that land when not in use. Perfect.

I played one of the newest RTSs, Earth Assault, and was saddened to see my repair units sit idly by while the building next to them was on fire. Aren't we learning, gradually, to do things the right way?
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:46 AM on April 8, 2008

I still play it. My oldest son loves to watch the little robots and planes, and is itching to get his little mits on it. Hands down one of my favorite games of all time. I lost the original media and pulled down replacement ISOs from a torrent.
posted by jquinby at 8:39 AM on April 8, 2008

What I most clearly remember about TA was its ability to convey that a war was going on, without a single human on screen. Junk units and destroyed buildings littering the terrain, which turned from green to an ashy black, as the trees burnt and the bombarding wouldn't stop. Or the massive ships and cannons, costing an arm and a leg, destroying whole bases with panache, without ever making contact with the enemy. Fancy that, a video game having such an effect.
posted by ersatz at 9:21 AM on April 8, 2008

Give it a few years of hardware upgrades, and SupCom will be a formidable successor to TA. Like other people have noted, unless you have absolute top of the line hardware, it's hard to approach the level of shamelessly excess firepower that TA was all about. However, the potential is certainly there.

Also, for anyone who hasn't tried the "Expansion Pack" (which runs standalone) Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance, I can fully recommend it. It fixes quite a few complaints with the original, adds many new units and significant differences between the factions without upsetting game balance (in fact, even improving it in my opinion). Also adds a new "evil" faction, who are pretty fun and have some badass weaponry at their disposal. It's a worthwhile upgrade.
posted by cecilkorik at 9:26 AM on April 8, 2008

Yeah, I wish I could play SupCom, but I don't have access to any National Security Agency supercomputers. When I bought my new video card, I was psyched to be able to play it at more than three frames a second. Too bad it only got me up to about four frames a second.

I wish some assembler jock would go in and replace the projectile physics simulation with hit tables. Then it might actually be playable. I would just play TA, but the UI is so awkward by modern standards it's too much of a headache.
posted by bunnytricks at 10:30 AM on April 8, 2008

Hey bunnytricks, I'm with you on the hit tables thing. Physics is eye candy. And while we're at it, get rid of the 3D -- make the whole screen a tactical map with nothing but topo lines and colored vector graphics. That'd leave all the CPU budget for AI. 'Cuz truly massive numbers of autonomous units is what the game's really about.

And if I want to watch the climactic moment of the battle in photo-realistic 3D with accurate physics, well, I can wait 'till the render farm's done with it just like I do with every other CG movie, right?
posted by sdodd at 11:10 AM on April 8, 2008

I can't even run the Supreme Commander Web site.

I'd love to play some TA, and eBay seems to have copies on the cheap. But what should I look for? There seem to be a lot of flavours. Is the base game all right, or should I hold out for some sort of bundle with The Core Contingency and Battle Tactics?
posted by Shepherd at 11:23 AM on April 8, 2008

Shepherd -

I would get the bundle: TA, TA:CC and TA:BT. You end up with all the maps, units, and everything else.
posted by jquinby at 11:42 AM on April 8, 2008

I remember playing TA online back in the day. This was over dial-up. I had played for about three hours against some dude from across the seas and was close to victory. I had readied my final attack force. I arranged them into squads and gave the order to move out... when suddenly the line dropped out because a friend was calling me.

I still haven't forgiven him.
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:39 PM on April 8, 2008

Effigy, didn't you know how to disable call waiting?
posted by flaterik at 3:47 PM on April 8, 2008

Not back then, obviously. :)
posted by Effigy2000 at 8:09 PM on April 8, 2008

I still love TA, and was surprised a couple of weeks ago when, for some reason unknown to me, it decided that it would be quite happy running at full 1680 x 1050 resolution. The option to run at that res had never shown up before, and I had thought that it maxed out at 1024x768.
posted by tomble at 7:31 PM on April 10, 2008

« Older Force Feed These Kids   |   "Eat Eat Eat Molt Expand Repeat!" Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments